Ontario and the Rideau Canal
10 July 2019
The approach to Ottowa by boat is mighty impressive. Parliament and Chateau Laurier dominate the skyline while the The Flight Of Eight appears as a grand staircase. These step locks lifted us up 79 feet to the heart of Ottowa and is the entrance to the Rideau Canal. Once at the top boats line the canal walls and have easy access to sightseeing and markets. The process took us 2 hours and celebratory blender drinks were whipped up as soon as we were secured and connected to power. This day was the hottest day we had encountered this season, made hotter by the environment of the locks and big city buildings. Once the air conditioning was humming and we had that frothy rum drink in our hands we were able to appreciate that we only had to maneuver the boat and hold mooring lines while the college students on their summer jobs were hand cranking every lock.
Ottowa is the capital of Canada and our arrival was just after the national holiday, the city was still bustling with tourists. The stunning historic buildings of Parliament Hill are over a century old and undergoing a multi year refurbishment. Our visit to Notre Dame Basilica was one of the high points, several decades older than the parliament, the exterior is stately but it is the interior that really takes your breath away. The oldest and largest basilica in Ontario, it is brightly painted, has ornate stained glass and hundreds of statues. We happened upon visiting during organ practice and the sound was heavenly.
Built in 1832, the Rideau Canal is 126 miles long, and has 47 total locks (we transverse 45), almost all of which are hand still cranked. A UNESCO World Heritage Site! Our leisurely pace took us through small towns and amazing scenery. Numerous option for overnight docking at the locks and several had power available to run the welcome air conditioning. Hot days cooling off at nights make perfect boating weather!
So there is this thing in on Ontario called a Butter Tart. They even have a Butter Tart Festival and bakers vie for the best tart award. Completely absent in Quebec, the second we entered Ontario there they were. Butter Tarts! My first experience was sickly sweet, runny and a mediocre crust. I didn't get loopers obsession with these little pies. However, on one of our lunch stops on the Rideau there was a visitors center that sold butter tarts from an award winning bakery in town. Now this was a tart I could appreciate. Flaky crust held a perfect balance of sweetness and flavor. Think pecan pie and you would be in the general area but not quite there yet...
Those that read my posts will know that I am a huge fan of the United States National Park System. I must say however that Canada's parks are incredible as well! The use of all of these locks and docks to moor to overnight were well worth the price of the season passes we purchased.
Everyone has been wonderful, everyday has been wonderful, even the rainy days are wonderful.
What a life!
OMGOSH, We loved the French Province of Quebec
01 July 2019
After enjoying the Hudson River and Lake Champlain we cleared through customs and started yet another amazing portion of our loop. With Jonathan and Jayne on Bella Gatto, along with their guest for the week we headed into Quebec Province. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the Richelieu River and it's canals. Only 60 miles long but full of personality, friendly people and lovely restaurants. I am keeping a list of favorite small towns and two of our three stops made the list. Both Saint Jean Richelieu and Chambly's overnight wall space was right in the heart of the town. Cute towns kept impeccably clean. Most of the French speaking locals knew enough English to asked many questions and some even asked 'Loop?' We communicated with hand gestures and maps. We felt as though we were far away in an enchanting land. The French Canadians were celebrating St John the Baptist that weekend and we were fortunate to get space, several boaters even moving a bit farther ahead or back to accommodate us.
At the end of the Richelieu River we meet the powerful St Lawrence. Turning towards the west we were going against a pretty steady two knot current until nearing Montréal where the current increased to four or five knots slowing our 7 knot boat to a crawl. Only a few miles to go and we arrived at Yacht Club Montréal. I had always wanted to visit this city but never dreamed it would be by boat! Rich in history with stunning architecture and our marina was but steps from it all. Steve's birthday fell on the day we arrived and he always wants oriental and Chinatown was within walking distance! We strolled up and down until he picked a restaurant and we had a feast fit for the king that he is. The next day the crew on Bella Gatto headed in one direction and we used the marina bikes to follow along the bike route to this fabulous outdoor/indoor market. Atwater Market had the typical vendors but typical they were not. French cheeses, meats, produce vendors and bakeries mixed in with fresh flowers and plants. Oh, we couldn't resist and purchased items for a lovely picnic. What a great experience Montréal was.
My favorite town in the world ever, wait, my favorite town on this continent, wait, my favorite town to date on this continent, St Anne de Bellevue on the Ottowa River is adorable. All the canal locks have walls to that you can tie off to. Sometimes they are at a town and we walk a bit and then move on, others like this one you don't want to move for days. A mini looper convention with 7-8 boats had plenty of space for docktails and the dogs had an area they could play and run. The other side of the narrow canal was a restaurant lined boardwalk and at night we were serenaded as a violinist walked among waterfront tables.
We were presently surprised by outstanding Canada Day fireworks in a small town with another free dock that had been recommended by a fellow Looper. Fireworks from the comfort of our boat brought back many good Milwaukee waterfront festival memories.
On our last night in French Quebec we stayed at a casino that gave you back a gift card equal to the price of the dockage. It felt like date night as the crew of Bella Gatto and Nomadic Spirit dug out something besides shorts and flip flops and enjoyed dinner in one of the many restaurant options available.
On to Ottowa, Ontario Province.